DEL RIO — For some people in this Southwest Texas city, there was no help to get along, no hope for a better life.
They woke each morning to grumbling stomachs that reminded them they were unsure where they would find their next meal. They aren’t eligible for government assistance. Other assistance groups couldn’t help them either. They were left to roam the streets looking for food.
At least that’s the way it was until First Baptist Church reached out to them.
As a result of a recent Baptist General Convention-sponsored hunger conference in Del Rio and a partnership with the city of Del Rio, the church identified 1,099 people who receive no help as the ones they want to serve most.
The congregation has quadrupled its hunger ministry to provide food for families four times a month. It hasn’t reached the point where it can provide food for everyone in need, but it’s working to get to that point.
The church’s work is part of Texas Hope 2010, a BGCT initiative to share the hope of Christ with every Texan by Easter 2010 by praying for them, caring for them and sharing the gospel.
“I have been blessed in my life,” said Gisela Lenz, who leads the Del Rio anti-hunger initiative. “I want to give back to the Lord.”
The congregation is seeking to address all the needs of people who come for help. It is looking to start job training classes and computer education courses on the church’s campus designed to help people gain or improve employment.
“Our main goal is to feed less people in the future, not more,” Lenz said.
The church also has partnered with area Spanish-speaking congregations to serve local residents who speak only Spanish and receive food from First Baptist Church.
Before food is distributed, people attend a short devotional given in Spanish. Recently 13 made professions of faith after the devotional, followed by another 15 who made professions of faith the next week. Spanish-speaking ministers provide a connecting point for people to get involved in church.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people we distribute to are Spanish-speaking citizens,” Lenz said. “We know for a fact they will not join First Baptist. That’s why we have the other pastors, so when the need arises, they know where” to plug in.
First Baptist Pastor Jeff Johnson noted the hunger ministry is part of a multipronged attempt to reach out to the various segments of the city’s population. Those efforts include ministering to young couples on the area military base and starting a coffee shop for young people.
Johnson sees God working through the church’s ministries. The younger people the congregation is engaging have a desire to help those in need. In turn, they strengthen the church’s work to feed the hungry.
“Those young people are embracing the idea of sharing the gospel and feeding the hungry,” he said. “That is coming together.”
For more information about Texas Hope 2010, visit ww.texashope2010.com. For more information about starting or increasing a ministry to the hungry, call the BGCT at (888) 244-9400.
John Hall is news director for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.